WoW’s brother-in-arms Battle.net has recently instituted a new feature: Real ID. Real ID is “A New Way to Connect With Your Friends on Battle.net” as toted on their website.
The goal of this new feature is straight-forward enough. Just as it’s moniker implies, Real ID lets you input more personal information about yourself that will be available to your Battle.net friend’s. This includes your real name, which will go alongside your character’s name that you are currently playing. Added to this, friends will also see your real name when chatting, communicating in-game, or viewing your character’s profile.
One cool feature of Real ID implements is the ability to chat cross-game, cross-realm, and cross-faction across all supported Blizzard games. This gives you the where-with-all to bug your friends playing Star Craft II to help you finish a 25-man Ulduar.
Another Real ID feature is the “Rich Presence” application. Rich Presence allows for the viewing of “additional information” about your friends including what there up to via the ability to see what games they are playing in real time. The idea behind this seems to be, by giving the players the power to see exactly what certain players are doing at certain times, if they are really running finishing that quest in The Grizzly Hills before running Utgarde, or just screwing around, you can better manage your time playing.
Real ID also preforms in giving you the ability to leave a short message for all your friends. Tell them whether you’re up for some PVP, or looking for someone to quest with. You can also read your friends messages en-mass through the “Recent Broadcasts” feed on the Battle.net welcome page, a kind of bulletin board where all your friends messages will be posted for you to scan through quickly.
The final feature Real ID promotes is, once you become friends with another Real ID user, you have the ability to see all the characters your friends have, not only in World of Warcraft, but every Blizzard game they play, and vice versa. This takes your Battle.net’s friends’ list beyond one game at a time and into Blizzard’s entire catalog.
As battle.net matures, I could easily sell them integrating other games outside of Blizzard’s into the service. Activision’s games for instance. As soon as that happens, Valve will be watching even more closely because this could easily become the first real rival of Steam.